Shine On!’s Fifth Annual Conference Introduces New STEM Workshop

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                FOR MORE INFORMATION:
April 16, 2015                                                      Jennifer Gioia, Shine On! Planning Committee


Shine On!’s Fifth Annual Conference Introduces New STEM Workshop

Shine On! Mentors Kelly Martin and Lisa Scivolette with their group during the 2014 Conference.
Shine On! Mentors Lisa Scivolette and Kelly Martin with their group during the 2014 Conference.

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (April 16, 2015) — Kelly Martin loves coding. Martin, a SUNY Plattsburgh nursing student, takes many computer science courses, where she’s usually the only girl.

Dr. Ken Podolak and Dr. Michael Walters, assistant professors of physics and engineering at SUNY Plattsburgh, have seen a growth in female-to-male ratio in science, technology, engineering and math classrooms.

However, they would like to see further growth.

“STEM needs to be taught, nurtured and workshopped,” Podolak said.

That’s what this year’s Shine On! conference plans to do. The Shine On! Committee will host their fifth annual event that takes place overnight from April 25 to April 26 in Memorial Hall on SUNY Plattsburgh’s campus.

Around 200 third-fifth grade girls will take part in the conference, which strives to equip young girls with the coping skills required to resist the societal pressures they will face in middle school and beyond, leading to more positive behavioral outcomes.

It will feature a series of 10 workshops staying true to Shine On!’s three main themes: communication skills, media/marketing literacy and character strengths.

Martin loved experiencing the “fun transition of her girls from fearful to resilient” as a mentor during Shine On!’s last conference. Her feelings inspired her to lead this year’s new STEM workshop.

The Shine On! Planning Board Committee arranges girls into small groups with college-aged female mentors to support and guide the attendees as they move throughout the conference workshops.

“The girls become so attached they want to sleep next to you at night, and then they don’t want to leave in the morning,” Martin said.

Martin eagerly anticipates her new STEM workshop; “It’s been an idea of mine for a while…and I want the girls to know that STEM can be for them too.”

The STEM workshop, also designed by the SUNY Plattsburgh Physics club and club advisor Dr. Walters, will involve Legos and NXT controllers. The girls will learn how to build and program the robots; learn how to make a sequential order of operations for the robot to perform; and learn what the best way is to program the robot to perform.

“The point is for the girls to understand that the robot is never perfect and to learn to deal with imperfection,” Walters said.

Last year’s conference made Martin become “aware of how younger girls can be put in a box that they have to stay in, and people don’t really see it. In Shine On!, [teaches] girls to be strong women in any field, [to] learn about bullying and how to react or what to do. The girls have so much…to learn.”

Martin thinks the skills Shine On! instills in these young girls really stick; “The girls come back. They wouldn’t come back if they didn’t want to learn more. It’s so important.”

Sponsored by SUNY Plattsburgh, CVPH Foundation, The Development Corporation, Plattsburgh Pediatrics and many others, the Shine On! Conference is free for all registered girls.

This year’s conference workshops focusing on the three main themes are:

I. Communication Skills:

  1. Communication Tools and Tips about Social Media Etiquette presented by the SUNY Plattsburgh Improv Troupe.
    When girls are teased or bullied, they may not have the words to stand up for themselves. This interactive workshop gives girls the skills and talking points to stand up for themselves and others in a non-confrontational way. Attendees and their mentors will discuss and role-play different scenarios about issues like bullying and peer pressure through social media. They will learn to be an upstander, not a bystander.
  2. Diversity presented by SUNY Plattsburgh Adjunct Lecturers Butterfly Blaise and Jada Secone.
    This workshop focuses on recognizing what can be hurtful to others. The girls will also pledge to be “anti-mean.”

II. Media/Marketing Literacy:

  1. Magazine presented by founding member of Shine On! and SUNY Plattsburgh alumna, Chyresse Wells.
    Flipping through the pages of a magazine may leave girls feeling lousy about themselves. These photoshopped images can leave girls feeling insecure. This workshop will show girls that the pictures in the magazines aren’t real, and marketers intend for consumers to buy products rather than feel beautiful in their own skin.
  2. MissRepresentation presented by Health Educator and Shine On! Outreach Coordinator Rhema Lewis.
    Women are often shown on TV, in movies or in commercials more for their looks or bodies, than their talents. Why are women in bikinis used in advertisements to sell trucks? This workshop will help girls better understand the media, marketing and how society sets unrealistic expectations for females.

III. Character Strengths:

  1. Character Strengths presented by fourth-grade teacher, Michelle Gottschall.
    Shine On! will expose girls to the skills needed to overcome obstacles and be successful by introducing them to seven character strengths: grit, zest, optimism, willpower, gratitude, social intelligence and curiosity.
  1. STEM presented by veteran mentor & nursing student, Kelly Martin, and the SUNY Plattsburgh Physics Club.
    This workshop will convey the message that young girls can become involved in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, showing that these fields are both fun and important.

Shine On! will also focus on the well-being of the girls with the following workshops:

  1. Rock Your Confidence presented by SUNY Plattsburgh student Dorian Yablin and women of the Expeditionary Studies program.
    Girls will learn how trying something scary is the first step to success and building a strong self. Through fun activities, such as rock climbing, girls will learn interactive skills to develop confidence in themselves.
  2. Self-Defense with David Boise from Villari’s Self Defense Center in downtown Plattsburgh.
    This workshop will give girls information and tips on safety to help prevent feelings of nervousness, fear and helplessness.
  3. Healthy Eating presented by women of the SUNY Plattsburgh Health and Nutrition program.
    Sometimes parents and girls alike find that fast food is the only answer at the end of a hectic day.  Having a bad day at school could have girls reaching for chocolate. This workshop aims to educate about healthier food choices and to help girls better understand the impact of their choices. They will walk away with healthy ideas that taste great.
  1. Water Zumba with certified lifeguards Sarah Abbate and Haley Miller.
    The pool hour provides time for girls to have fun with their new friends and let loose.

Other activities include:

Night Yoga presented by registered yoga instructor, Berlin Krabs.
After a long day of fun and enlightening workshops, the girls will learn how to manage stress and stay healthy through yoga.

Wake-Up Dance Party presented by certified dance instructor, Ariel Monserrate.
Shine On! will celebrate the completion of the conference with a fun wake-up dance party to show off both girls’ and parents’ moves with some confidence and zest.

For more information, contact SUNY Plattsburgh Associate Professor and Shine On! Founder Colleen Lemza at, visit or receive updates on Facebook at; Twitter @shineongirls; and Instagram @shineon_girls.


Homelessness in Plattsburgh is on the rise

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (Sept. 14, 2014) —“The fastest growing group of homeless people in Clinton County is families. Many of those families have young children,” Plattsburgh Housing Authority’s Executive Director Mark Hamilton said.

Homelessness in Plattsburgh is increasing each year. According to Hamilton and Homelessness Analytics, during 2008 to 2012, the total number of homeless persons reported have increased from 53 to 236. That’s an increase of four and a half percent.

To help fight homelessness, Plattsburgh has Plattsburgh Housing Authority (PHA), Evergreen Townhouse Community (ETC), Clinton County Department of Social Services (CCDSS), STOP Domestic Violence at Behavioral Health Services North (BHSN), Champlain Valley Family Services and Veteran Affairs.

Local churches help by providing food drives and clothing to the homeless. The Salvation Army also helps by offering affordable everyday items and assistance programs. ETC and SUNY Plattsburgh sponsored a workshop event on homelessness this past Saturday, May 3 at United Methodist Church.

PHA is heavily regulated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and has waiting list requirements. However, PHA does not offer emergency housing. Tenant rent and HUD Subsidy fund PHA.

“The PHA has recently instituted a ‘homelessness preference’ that will give applicants that meet HUD’s approved definition of homeless points to move them up the waiting list,” Hamilton said.

According to, HUD considers a person homeless “only when he/she resides in places not meant for human habitation, such as cars, parks, sidewalks, abandoned buildings (on the street) or an emergency shelter.

“They may also be in transitional or supportive housing for homeless persons who originally came from the streets or emergency shelters or is in any of the above places but is spending a short time (up to 30 consecutive days) in a hospital or other institution.

“Also being evicted within a week from a private dwelling unit and no subsequent residence has been identified and lacks resources and support networks needed to obtain housing.

“Being homeless also includes being discharged within a week from an institution, such as a mental health or substance abuse treatment facility or a jail/prison, in which the person has been a resident for more than 30 consecutive days and no subsequent residence has been identified and the person lacks the resources and support networks needed to obtain housing.

“Lastly, a person may be considered homeless if they are fleeing a domestic violence housing situation and no subsequent residence has been identified and lacks the resources and support networks needed to obtain housing.”

PHA is collaborating with ETC, CCDSS and STOP Domestic Violence on the new homelessness preference and application.

“PHA also has a long-standing history of working with the Clinton County Continuum of Care in an effort to reduce instances of homelessness,” Hamilton said.

ETC is a temporary emergency shelter and provides an intensive case management service for homeless families and individuals. They supply 12 temporary housing units and 21 permanent housing units. They are located at 6 Tara Ln.

CCDSS helps people with domestic violence, employment and assistance, home care, Medicaid and more. They are located at 13 Durkee St.

STOP Domestic Violence is an NYS-certified program under BHSN assisting victims of domestic violence.

According to, they supply “confidential[ly] safe apartments for those in need and eligible for temporary shelter. Safe apartment residents can take care of immediate needs and assess long range plans for a safe environment while utilizing the support and assistance of staff.”

STOP Domestic Violence is located at 22 US Oval, Suite 218.

According to New York Times article Cuomo and de Blasio Clash Again, This Time Over Homelessness, “Mr. Cuomo’s office…had set aside more than $100 million in his proposed budget to help the homeless, mostly in New York City.”

According to United Neighborhood Houses Summary of the 2014-2015 New York State Executive Budget, Homeless Housing Prevention Services Program received a $30.3 million budget.

New York State’s office of Comptroller stated in 2012 Clinton County had 19.5% of household owners and 47% of household renters above the affordability threshold. In 2000, Clinton County had 38.9% of household renters and 17% of household owners above the affordability threshold. That’s almost a 10% increase in renters who have low income in over the past decade.

Clinton County spent roughly $48 million on social services, including emergency housing for adults and family assistance, according to Clinton County’s Legislative Department’s 2013 Budget online document.

Plattsburgh Mayor James Calnon is still new to the issue of homelessness. He plans on discussing more with Social Services Commissioner John Redden and President and CEO of BHSN, Craig Amoth.

Calnon said via email, “Homeless often seek more densely populated areas, as they provide more services, more opportunities for help and more potential spots for shelter, even the opportunity to group together for safety.”

He believes there is a sufficient demand for a shelter in Plattsburgh.

Calnon added, “Any shelter that is created needs to take into account that the City or the Town should not have to shoulder the cost of a shelter by themselves.”

Calnon does not have any plans at this point in time regarding homelessness.

Awareness is the best way to fight homelessness. If you wish to help, contact the mentioned services and organizations.

Hamilton believes “there is a need for some type [of] transitional housing that has a finite amount of time an individual or family could reside in and would require them to have various services (job training, career counseling, household skill training, etc.) that would allow them to have a successful transition from homelessness to permanently housed.”